22 Jun 10 Behavior Clues to consider before hiring a Landscape Lighting Designer Builder
By Mike Gambino
Behavior clues that help you decide whether you want to work with a landscape Lighting Designer Builder or Not.
Many consumers seem to have difficulty interviewing and hiring the best (which is most almost always not the lowest priced) service pro’s when it comes to selecting a designer, or landscape lighting designer/builder contractor to work together with on a project. Property owners may have never done a remodeling project, and not know how to select a Pro, or they may care more about the price than the end result.
Here are 10 first meeting Behavior Clues that your future Pro should pass to be the one to select to do the job. Don’t hire contractors that don’t pass these behavioral clue tests. If you do decide to, despite their failing score, then buyer beware.
This is information that each side needs to know about the other. Both the Customer and the Pro need each other. And they want to make an equitable exchange of services for money. But, each also needs to understand when their behavior sends the other running screaming.
10 Clues to See if You and Your Potential Contractor are a Good Match.
Clue #1 is the professional willing to meet as the first or last appointment of the day so you can go in late or get off a bit early to be there. Do they offer to meet on a Sunday when you are at home do not have to worry about work and are more relaxed? Are they willing to go the extra mile when asked, with a good reason?
Clue #2 Are they on time or do they call if they are running late? Punctuality and a phone call if traffic or other things interfere is just common courtesy. Being courteous and respectful of everyone’s time is an absolute must.
Clue #3, if they have come from a job site where they have soiled foot ware, do they automatically remove them? Does the designer wear shoes that would damage your floors? like spiked heels? Do they park their work vehicles at the street or in your driveway? Walk on your grass? Bring a drink with them? Are they clods with no care for the value you place on your surroundings? Or do they treat your property with care and respect?
Clue #4 Can the pro show you, or talk about project’s with a similar scope that they have done in the past. Do they have a portfolio to show you? Website? positive social media Reviews? Is landscape lighting their only business and get 100% of their attention? Do they have a custom truck equipped to carry all tools and equipment to satisfactorily complete your project? Do they offer maintenance service on their systems? What shows you that they are a good fit for what you want? 12 lighting projects done alongside their landscape installs and a pickup truck isn’t a specialized landscape lighting design/build contractor. Expect them to talk about similar jobs, or similar features that you’ve requested.
Clue #5 Does the Pro seem courteous and respectful of your property and say “thank you” for your hospitality? Do they ask for 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and a precise 3 1/2 of cream in their coffee? Do they sit on your obviously expensive antique chair with no so clean jobsite pants? If they accept your hospitality, do they make it involved and burdensome, or risky, to you? If they reject your hospitality, do they do so graciously. No, contractors don’t take a Miss Manners course, so don’t expect them to sit to a proper tea and know which fork to use. Cut them some slack. But expect basic courtesy from both directions.
Clue #6 Is the contractor willing to immediately discuss a basic cost range estimate for your project? “How much have you got to spend?” is not an acceptable answer to your question. Does he tell you that past projects with your desired work in your neighborhood ranged from H—L, while projects with a bit lesser scope (subtract 1,3,&7 ideas) or in a lesser costly neighborhood came in at C-F. Does he give a hint as to elements of your project that would make for a higher than average quote? “If you did the backyard complete at the same time rather than as separate projects down the road, you could save a pretty good amount. How important is it to find efficiency and cost saving procedures for the best use of your budget?” You are both trying to find common ground for an exchange of funds for results. That means a realistic and frank conversation on the front end about priorities and budget. And remember that estimates are not quotes. Experience and Work goes into giving you an accurate contractible number. Don’t ask for that “just” to get more information. Be prepared to pay a design consultation fee to get a quality landscape lighting designer builder out to your site to discuss your project. If you do not have your budget and finances in order and are not prepared to pay a deposit for the work, you are not prepared to do a job. Communication and goal alignment for you both is the goal.
Clue #7. Does the Pro ask questions about the reasons behind some of your wants? Do they notice the photo of your family displayed prominently and ask about how other family members will view and benefit from the lighting? Do they ask about your garden and its special features and from where it will be primarily viewed, secondarily? Or what activities if any take place there after dark, if any? You want them to treat you as more than just a check to be picked up. You want to connect with them on a couple of minimal levels beyond just if they can drive a fixture stake in the ground. Communication and goal alignment is paramount.
Clue #8 Does the Pro give you a preliminary job time estimate or idea of when it can be completed based upon his/her current work load/schedule and the scope of your project? Quote preparation time estimate? Will they give you an on the spot quote and give you the option of buying at the first meeting without pressure or stress to do so? Deadlines are important to set, so you both can be on the same page for expectations. As in “product lead times are 6-8 weeks, and the work itself may take another 6-8”. Or do they offer an unrealistic timeline, such as “7 days to a new landscape lighting system” now sign right here type of salesmanship that cannot possibly be fulfilled? Do they explain why providing an immediate quote is a benefit and a time/money saver. Do they keep in touch with you once you’ve purchased?
Clue #9. There simply isn’t any conceivable circumstances in which a well prepared homeowner needs to interview 9-10 actual Pros before hiring one. So, this will go to the 2-3 that you did interview. Is each licensed and insured, and you’ve verified that with the contractor board and their insurance company? No point in not getting that out of the way up front first thing as a screening tool. What is this Pro’s strengths? Their weaknesses? How does that compare to others you talked to? Is someone with great communication, great organization, and a higher price worth hiring more than the late, sloppy, cheaper guy? (YES!) You are looking for someone who you can marry for the duration of the project and beyond (maintenance), so who is going to work best for your personality? Who challenges your ideas in order for a better outcome for you? Who is very proud of and shows you the actual product samples that are to be used in your project? Are they good, but want to be better? Or do they give the impression that they are primadonnas and nobody is as good as or knows as much as they do.These are all things that need to be thought about in that hour’s initial contact, as a quote is developed. Follow up with emailed questions if you don’t buy at the initial meeting and forgot to ask them during the in person.
Clue #10. When you mention that you have talked with Contractor A or B, do they immediately get defensive and start badmouthing them? Or do they acknowledge them as a competitor, and then try to highlight their positives in comparison. “We have 30 years of experience with zero state contractor license board complaints ever. Please do check out everyone you are considering with the state contractors license board and business longevity in mind.” Is far different than two guys and a truck landscape lighting that has a bunch of complaints that never got resolved. It’s all available at the state contractors license board consumer website. This is where you have to perk up your antenna and read between the lines to do your due diligence. You also want to ask about how miscommunications , or change orders went with past clients. Everyone has those clients that make them want to pull their hair out. But no Professional really gives any details beyond a rough, vague mention.
An appointment between a Pro and a Homeowner to discuss a project is a job interview that goes both ways. If a homeowner think that just because they have money, that they are king, then that’s not a job that most Pros will want to take without additional compensation to make it worthwhile to endure condescension and entitlement. And if a Pro that thinks that just because he has a license and insurance, gives him reign to be late, sloppy, and disrespectful, he needs to be fired on the front end before he is hired. It won’t get better if you do hire him.
Client/Pro relationships are partnerships. They are built on mutual respect on every level.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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